Verstappen brings joy to bereft Red Bull team by delivering constructors’ title

2022 United States Grand Prix review

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While Red Bull’s status as one of Formula 1’s elite teams has not been in question ever since their race-winning breakthrough way back in 2009, the ultimate team prize of the constructors’ championship has eluded them for the past nine years.

Once the sport’s all-conquering dominators, Red Bull have been humbled in the V6 turbo era by the irresistible rise of Mercedes. But after the drivers’ championship came their way for Max Verstappen last season, it has been clear for months now that the constructors’ champions trophy would finally return to Milton Keynes this year.

As the team prepared for a likely coronation in Texas, any pre-emptive thoughts of celebration were quickly cancelled on Saturday with the announcement that Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of the Red Bull media empire, had died. As the team mourned the loss of the man it owed its existence to, two of the best products of the Red Bull junior driver programme – Carlos Sainz Jnr and Max Verstappen – locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix.

The question on Sunday was which of the pair would reach turn one at the top of the hill first – the Ferrari, or Red Bull’s newly-crowned double world champion. That question was quickly answered for over 140,000 eager spectators around the Circuit of the Americas when Verstappen launched off the line when the lights went out and was clear in the lead before he even began to scale the hill on the approach to turn one.

Race start, Circuit of the Americas, 2022
Pole-winner Sainz’s race was over quickly
Sainz remained alongside the Red Bull and looked to cut back on the exit of the hairpin, but before he knew it he was facing back the way he’d come. Behind him, George Russell had demonstrated all the awareness of an overexcited gamer in their first online open lobby race and speared into the Ferrari just after the apex, spinning it around and crashing down the order.

“Come on! What happened there?,” Sainz groaned in frustration and disappointment. “Puncture I think.”

“He just cut across me,” Russell protested. However, the stewards failed to see how Russell spearing into the back of the Ferrari from 30 metres back could be anything other than his fault, handing him a five-second time penalty for being “wholly responsible” for the clash. Sainz, set off after the field but was informed radiator damage had effectively ended his race after just a single corner.

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Verstappen led from the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll up from fifth, Russell and the second Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel. Having been demoted five and ten places on the grid, respectively, for power unit reasons, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc began to make their way through the midfield.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2022
Perez avoided penalty for damaged wing
Perez managed to climb up to fourth behind Russell’s Mercedes, despite a flapping front-right endplate on his front wing – a legacy of opening lap contact with Valtteri Bottas. Despite the loose end, the race director did not feel the need to show the Red Bull the black-and-orange flag. When it fell off of its own accord down the back straight, it seemed the problem has resolved itself.

Verstappen pulled only a modest gap to Hamilton behind. The gusting wind and his gradually degrading medium tyres kept him on his toes despite appearing to be in a comfortable position out front. Mercedes opted to pit Hamilton at the end of lap 12 for the hard compound, rejoining in seventh place. Verstappen mirrored Hamilton by pitting for hards a lap later and emerged behind only his team mate and ahead of the two Aston Martins, who were sandwiching Leclerc during this point of his recovery.

Leclerc got past Stroll with ease to move into second behind Verstappen, but still on the medium tyres with which he’d started the race. Hamilton reeled in Leclerc on his much fresher hard tyres, lapping a pace comparable with the leader.

Across the weekend, the relatively high winds in Austin had proven a challenge for drivers. There was no better example of this than on lap 18, when Bottas suddenly lost the rear end of his Alfa Romeo while sweeping through the 170km/h penultimate corner, pitching him into a 180-degree spin and digging him into one of the few gravel traps that exist around the circuit.

“Aw, shit,” Bottas sighed over the radio. “Just lost the back end.”

“Can you recover the car?,” engineer Alex Chan asked.

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“Stuck,” came Bottas’s reply. “Sorry guys – it’s my mistake. Just a big gust of wind or something. Lost the rear.”

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Circuit of the Americas, 2022
Bottas’ retirement brought out the Safety Car
The inevitable Safety Car provided a golden opportunity for second-placed Leclerc to pit for hards, which he promptly did, emerging in fourth behind Perez after the pair sprinted to beat each other to the Safety Car line at pit exit. The top five all sported recently-fitted hard tyres on their cars with Verstappen leading Hamilton, Perez, Leclerc and Russell with the two Aston Martins of Vettel and Stroll behind.

At the restart, Verstappen hit the throttle pedal mid-way around the multi-apex right hander, but Hamilton reacted almost instantly, shadowing the leader as they began the 22nd lap. Back in the pack, Stroll was being pressured for seventh by Fernando Alonso, who’d fitted a fresh set of mediums during the interruption. Despite no DRS at the restart, Alonso got a great run into his future team mate’s slipstream and used a squirt of his overtake button to get close enough to pull out halfway down the back straight.

Stroll was blamed for shocking crash with Alonso
Alonso moved left. Stroll moved left. Pierre Gasly, behind the pair, had a front row seat for the frightening scene that unfolded. The Alpine was half-launched into the air as Stroll was sent spinning down the straight, causing Gasly and the 10 cars behind to slam on their brakes and weave through the mess.

Stroll was out on the spot. “I crashed…” he reported, matter-of-factly.

After returning to Earth, Alonso’s Alpine had a glancing blow with the barrier but remained fundamentally driveable – if in urgent need of a new front wing and fresh tyres.

“You okay?,” asked Alonso’s engineer Karel Loos.

“Yes mate…” Alonso reassured him, his heavy breathing reflecting the sudden shock he had just gone through. “Very late move.”

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As Alonso surprisingly recovered his Alpine to the pits, the Safety Car which had only just returned to the pit lane was sent straight back out. By lap 25, the debris was cleared and the race was ready to resume. This time, Verstappen jumped around 100 metres earlier than the first restart, but again Hamilton refused to be left behind and hung with the leader as the green flag flew once more.

Hamilton maintained the pressure on Verstappen
So often in 2022, Verstappen has simply pulled away from his pursuers once in the lead, but Hamilton kept the world champion firmly in his sights. Over the eight laps following the restart, only once did Hamilton allow Verstappen to break beyond two seconds ahead of him. At the end of lap 34, Mercedes called Hamilton in for a second set of hard tyres that would take him to the end of the race.

Red Bull responded by bringing the leader in the following lap, but chose to go for mediums, not hards. Verstappen came into the pits for the final time, but a major delay on both removing his left-front wheel and fitting its replacement allowed Hamilton to sail by on the track and Leclerc to jump ahead of him in the pits. He would finally be released 11 seconds after arriving.

“Beautiful. Fucking beautiful,” the former leader facetiously muttered over the radio.

Hamilton was now in third, but effectively leading. He began catching up to Vettel, who was yet to take a second pit stop while, behind, Verstappen put pressure on Leclerc. Verstappen tried to dive down the inside of the Ferrari at turn one, but Leclerc held firm and took back the place – only until Verstappen used DRS to make the move stick into turn 12 half a lap later.

Hamilton had the track position, but Verstappen had the pace and the tyres to make the most of it. Having passed Leclerc, Verstappen needed to make up 4.5 seconds on the Mercedes and made good use of his mediums to gradually eat away at Hamilton’s lead. In what was possibly their best chance at a race win of the season, Mercedes could do nothing but watch from the garage and hope Hamilton’s harder tyres would prove their worth over Verstappen’s grippier but less durable mediums.

After ten laps of pursuing Hamilton, Verstappen broke into DRS range of the leader. With only eight more laps remaining in the race, the prospects of Hamilton somehow keeping the world champion at bay for those final 44 kilometres looked bleak. Heading onto the back straight out of turn 11, Verstappen was only just inside DRS range. But such was the Red Bull’s speed advantage, that gap vanished over the length of the kilometre-long straight and Verstappen dived to the inside, taking the lead back from his rival.

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Hamilton fought as hard as he could to offer some kind of counter attack, but Verstappen was through and there was nothing he could do. The pair used up their third and final track limits warnings, leaving them both perilously close to earning five-second post-race penalties. However, the two drivers on the grid who perhaps cope the best under pressure did not slip up a fourth time.

Red Bull won the constructors championship for the fifth time
Verstappen had successfully navigated through adversity and rescued a win under peril once again. When he completed the 56th lap to take the weakly-waved chequered flag courtesy of a Silicon Valley giant, he managed to eke out a lead of just over five seconds over Hamilton.

Beyond his 13th win in one of Formula 1’s all-time most-successful seasons, Verstappen had sealed Red Bull’s first constructors’ championship crown, 3,283 days after their last. It was made all the more meaningful to the team given the death of the man who had led the purchase of the team way back in 2004.

“Obviously for us, it’s been a tough weekend and we really wanted to win today,” said Verstappen.

“Of course I’m sad, but I’m also incredibly proud of the whole team, also the way they’ve operated the whole weekend. Of course apart from the pit stop – that was a gun failure and these things unfortunately can happen. But we kept it together and we won also the constructors [championship], so I’m very proud of everyone.”

Hamilton may have been unable to prevent Verstappen from victory, but having come so close, he was left satisfied with his team’s performance.

“It felt amazing to even just be in shooting distance of Max for some points of the race,” Hamilton said.

“We were aggressive. I really, really am proud of the team. I think everyone worked so hard to bring upgrades here this weekend and for a second I thought maybe we might just be able to hold onto it, but that extra medium tyre they had was just a little bit too strong compared to us.”

Leclerc secured the final podium spot in third after starting from 12th on the grid. While the recovery certainly looked impressive on paper, the Ferrari driver had to admit fortune had played a hand in his result.

“The very first few laps, it was all about being patient,” Leclerc explained. “We got a bit lucky with the Safety Car at the right time for us, which put us back into the race. But then unfortunately, we suffered a little bit too much tyre degradation to fight for higher.”

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Fourth place was claimed by the second Red Bull of Perez having started from ninth, with Russell finishing in fifth having pitted for softs on the penultimate lap and taking the fastest lap point. Lando Norris claimed ‘best of the rest’ honours in sixth.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Circuit of the Americas, 2022
Alonso lost his points finish after the race
Alonso somehow survived his clash with Stroll and a loose wing mirror for the majority of the race to finish seventh. Vettel took eighth following a thrilling final lap duel with Kevin Magnussen after pit stop problems had cost the Aston Martin driver painful amounts of time, with Yuki Tsunoda seemingly taking the final point in tenth.

However, a post-race protest by Haas saw Alonso’s position and points stripped away when the stewards handed him a 30-second time penalty for racing with a loose mirror for many laps – an unacceptable safety risk in their eyes. Alonso’s penalty dumped him unceremoniously out of the points to 13th, but promoted team mate Esteban Ocon into the final points-paying position in tenth in the final classification.

At the front, it was yet another win for the world champion. And with the constructors’ title now sewn up, all that seems left for Verstappen to aim for is to break the all-time single season wins record after matching Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel on 13. But Verstappen was unmoved by the idea of chasing records. For him, simply winning races is its own reward.

“We are having an amazing season, but of course, when you have a great car, you can win a lot of races,” Verstappen said.

“Of course I’m proud of winning a lot of races, but I don’t really look at these kinds of stats. I’m just happy winning races.”

Red Bull have now won 15 of the 19 races this year

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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11 comments on “Verstappen brings joy to bereft Red Bull team by delivering constructors’ title”

  1. the weakly-waved chequered flag courtesy of a Silicon Valley giant

    How ridiculous did that look.

    1. Robots still have a long way to go…


      “waving the checkered flag like a dead fish”

  2. Hmm, I’m prepared for a load of critisism, although my reasoning should be valid.

    Given the amount of safety concerns we’ve had recently about things on track, I still think that a team getting carried away celebrating leaning out over the track is a huge risk. The gaps are there for signs and entry to the track in the circumstances that are needed. It may only be a matter of time before an incident occurs, then everyone will go crazy and state that this should never have been allowed. It does seem that regarding safety in many areas, we have to wait for the worst to happen. Just lean over the top of the fence a bit rather than literally lean over the track with nothing to stop you falling – with a load more crew behind you leaning over you.

    All this fussing about marshals on track at dangerous times (all valid) and then it seems ok for pit crews to hang over the track when the drivers are all going full speed. Others may not agree, but I see it as a big problem some day.

  3. Never Mind RB’s joy @willwood

    Where your story on how Max should have been eliminated in Q1 after leaving his track limit infringement & how incompetent FIA can even police its own rules consistently?

    1. Since it’s never going to change now (the FIA coming back on its own stewards decision? surely not), it’s happened before with other drivers and the grid has been over since the start, it’s better to just note it down into the ‘FIA still not solid on track limits and possibly at times a bit more lenient when dealing with consequences for front-grid runners than with the midfield or backmarker teams’, and hope that perhaps at some point the FIA does figure out how to be clearly consistent with track limits during qualy @the-edge

      After all, there’s little doubt that Verstappen would have gotten to the front of the race before it was over anyway, is there? Either by starting near there (even with a bodged pitstop), or by using those safety cars to make up time (as Leclerc did). He remains a lot faster with the car than Perez, and the car is faster than just about any other.

  4. RB Team, enjoy the wins. You will soon be looking at the podium and remembering what it was like to be up there. Budget-gate :)

  5. The emotions with Horner, Marko and Verstappen after the race were telling. Luckily personal relationships, passion and hard work aren’t lost on this team that’s usually cool and collected.

  6. You missed Leclerc’s late-braking move on Perez. Move of the race in my opinion, alongwith Vettel’s on Magnussen.

    1. @wsrgo There were some great moves all around yesterday. Shame the DRS on the back straight was just a bit too powerful, but there were moves all over the circuit, including quite a few at Turn 16/17/18 (whatever you want to call that long right hander in S3). Made the whole thing quite a fun watch.

  7. The moving under braking by lewis when VER passed him was something to notice.
    And the embarrassing asking for a penalty by lewis about the track limits he himself crossed multiple times.
    Missing the years without all that “screwing your opponent by a penalty”.

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